NEW ORLEANS -- The zoo in New Orleans is asking fans of endangered orangutans to help name the baby Sumatran orangutan born on Christmas Eve 2021.
The infant has been getting round-the-clock care at the Audubon Zoo since a few days after his birth because Menari, a first-time mother, wasn’t producing enough milk. The great apes with long red hair are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
People can choose the names Rudy, Roux or Maymuun in a poll on the zoo’s webpage, according to a Wednesday news release.
Rudy is both for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and underdog Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, whose dogged hard work got him into Notre Dame and onto its football field for one game in 1975.
Roux is French for reddish brown, like the color of an orangutan’s long fur, and for the cooked mixture of flour and oil or butter used to thicken gumbo and other Louisiana dishes.
On the island of Sumatra, Maymuun means fortunate, blessed, or thriving, according to the zoo.
“We are pronouncing it May-MOON,” wrote zoo spokesperson Annie Matherne.
The baby's two half-sisters are named Bulan, which means moon, and Madu, which means honey. All three were sired by Jambi, who came in 2018 from the zoo in Hannover, Germany.
Threats to the Sumatran species include hunting and the destruction of the forests and peat swamps of the Indonesian island where they spend nearly all their time in trees.
To help the baby build up his grip strength and stamina, caretakers are going through what they affectionately call “baby boot camp,” Curator of Primates Liz Wilson said in comments emailed by a zoo spokesperson.
That includes lifting him up and down while he clings to a caretaker's fingers and putting him facedown in hay, Wilson said. It also involves exercise by caretakers while the baby holds onto a furry vest. Sessions can include a caretaker bending, turning, walking fast, and climbing on ropes, swings and other orangutan equipment.
Menari is also getting daily training for maternal behaviors including nursing and how to act if staffers need to continue bottle feeding the baby after they’re reunited. Unlike training for gorillas, it does not use a doll, Matherne said.